Even though she’s having a successful tennis career that has included two trips to the state tournament, Shelby Jones is no stranger to bowling.
“I bowled in a junior league,” the Marquette Catholic junior said. “I traveled in Gateway tournaments and Gateway travel leagues. They were fun. They gave me a lot of experience.”
Now, Jones is part of the first-year Marquette bowling program. She’s one of 16 bowlers on the squad and will be bowling for her father, Mark Jones, the new head coach.
“I like it so far,” she said. “It’s pretty fun. All of the girls who came out to bowl are really nice. I think we make a great team. We’re all optimistic, positive and willing to learn.”
The Marquette boys’ and girls’ teams were scheduled to have road matches against Triad and Highland this week. The boys’ team started its season on Nov. 11 with a fourth-place finish in the Alton Round Robin Tournament at Bowl Haven.
The Explorers have their practices and home matches at Bowl Haven. They start their home season on Dec. 7 against East Alton-Wood River.
Cameron Rainey, Chris Hellrung, Luke Simmons, Colin Everitt, Nick Hamm, Connor Dalton, Jaylen Bey and Jake Gatermann make up the boys’ squad.
Besides Jones, Clair Chappee, Heidi Ambers, C’Mara Barnett, Mary Brock, Mera Parker, Michayla Jacobs, Kaitlyn Byrne and Sara Gratan are the other members on the girls’ team.
“It looked like we were going to have about 20 kids and ended up with 16,” Mark Jones said. “It’s a growing program. A lot of them never even touched a bowling ball before, so it’s a growing experience.”
Shelby Jones said she’s happy that she’s getting to play another sport. She has played with the Marquette girls’ tennis team for three years and qualified for state in her freshman and sophomore seasons.
“It’s nice,” the junior said. “It definitely keeps me active. I love being active. I love to play tennis and bowling and going to the gym and exercising.”
Mark Jones said Marquette athletics director Jack Holmes came up with the idea of bringing a bowling program to the school after a group of students talked to him about it.
“He started checking into it and came out here (to Bowl Haven) and talked to (manager) Bill (Netzhammer) and Bill explained to him all of the support that he could get here and how my daughter (Shelby) went to Marquette,” he said. “That’s how I got approached (to be head coach) and we talked some more about it. I gave him a line of questions and found out how the program is going to build from asking the kids these questions. It pretty much took off on its own once we found and saw the interest from the kids.”
Jones has been bowling for 40 years. He has also coached a couple of bowlers who went on to compete at the college level.
“He’s doing really good as a coach,” Dalton said.
Jones said the goal for the program is helping the bowlers learn the basics of bowling.
“What we want to bring to this program is a sense of accomplishment and the gratitude and understanding of how the proper mechanics will make you score,” the Marquette coach said. “You’re going to do it right and you’re going to pick up more spares, throw strikes and the scores go up. The whole collaboration of this program is draw it back to the basics and learn the program from the beginning, just as me and my coaching staff did when we were all young. Back when we bowled, they didn’t have these reactive and hook balls.”
Jones said the boys have improved tremendously from the first week of practice.
“Four weeks ago, if you have watched these boys, you would sit back here and say, ‘Oh, boy.’ Today, they’re totally different,” he said. “I really wish I could have videotaped their first practice so I can show them how different the improvement was.”
Dalton originally was going to try out for basketball before he found out that his school was having a bowling team.
“My dad and my grandfather were really good bowlers, so I thought I might be able to live up to that,” the freshman said.
Jones said his boys had fun competing in the Alton tournament.
“It was exciting,” he said. “We finished fourth, but it was exciting just to see the kids compete and watching the kids compete and starting to seeing and doing the correct things that we’ve worked for two weeks prior to that and accomplishing it and picking up their spares. Just seeing the look on their faces, the sense of the accomplishment and high-fiving, it was awesome.”
Chappee, the only senior on the team, said she’s thrilled about the opportunity to bowl in high school. She competed in bowling while she was a student at Evangelical School in sixth and seventh grade.
“I just wanted to come out and bowl for fun,” Chappee said.
Jones said he has high hopes for the girls.
“I’m looking for good things from the girls’ program,” he said. “Are we going to knock anybody’s socks off this year? Probably not. If we have fun and learn from the program, we have accomplished something.”